CALAFIA: Menifesting Terrestrial Paradise

Know then, that due east of the Indies there is an island called California, very near to the locale called the Terrestrial Paradise. It was populated by black women, with no men among them, for they lived in the fashion of the Amazons. They possessed strong and firm bodies of ardent courage and great strength. Their island was the strongest in all the world, with steep cliffs and rocky shores. Their arms were decorated with gold, as were the harnesses of the wild beasts they tamed and rode. – Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo, Las Sergas de Esplandian, Calafia
“Calafia” is a group exhibition featuring 30 artists from California and Mexico that seeks to explore the spirit of California by using the mythological Black female warrior who is the namesake and ruler of the fictional island of California, as a source of inspiration and artistic departure. From Garci Rodrigues de Montalvo’s fifth book of his sixteenth century opus Las Sergas de Esplandian (The Adventures of Esplandian), the story of the great queen Calafia and her army of Amazon women is told with decided wonder that not only establishes her place as a powerful influence on California, a region which spans both sides of the U.S. and Mexico border, but also as a reflection of the ongoing history of the area. The story tells of the rich island of California and its powerful women, mythical beasts and the quest for greatness that sets the foundation for the continuing mythos of its people and its land.

The parallels between the myth of Calafia and current day inhabitants of the great state of California don’t stop at its etymology. From the cinematic glamour of Hollywood, to its identity as a fertile paradise,This is a green and beige design that features information about the upcoming exhibition, to its association with gold and riches, the story and character of Calafia can be a point of critical interrogation used to explore and critique California’s stories, contradictions and identities.

The exhibition will feature artists Carlos Beltran, Antena, Abraham Avila, Victoria Delgadillo, Raul Baltazar, Juan Bastardo, Artemisa Clark, Cognate Collective, Jane C. Mi, Chris Christion, Yutsil Cruz, Ruben Garcia Marrufo, Max Martinez, Xandra Ibarra, Kristi Lippire, Diane Williams, Maya Mackrandilal, Chinwe Okona, Noe Olivas, Monica Rodriguez, Julio M. Romero, Andrea Santizo, Mariangeles Soto-Diaz, Sergio Teran, Jenny Yurshansky, Keaton Macon, Jorge Gutierrez, Sandy Rodriguez, Luis Alonso-Sanchez, Snatch Power and Nicole Antebi.

CALAFIA is proudly presented at RAFFMA as part of the MexiCali Biennial’s 2018-19 programming. The MexiCali Biennial is a bi-national arts organization that explores the area of the California/Mexico border as a site for aesthetic production. Founded in 2006 by Ed Gomez and Luis Hernandez, the biennial showcases nomadic exhibitions that partner with arts institutions to showcase both emerging and established artists working in all media. Originally started as a critique of the proliferation of international and regional biennials, the MexiCali Biennial may occur at any time and on any side of the US, Mexican border. For more information on the MexiCali Biennial, visit

Curated by Ed Gomez, Luis Hernandez, and Daniela Lieja Quintanar. April Lillard-Gomez served as project and research coordinator.